Lecture Thirty-Sixth

Jeremiah 9:10

10. For the mountains will I take up a weeping and wailing, and for the habitations of the wilderness a lamentation, because they are burned up, so that none can pass through them; neither can men hear the voice of the cattle: both the fowl of the heavens and the beast are fled; they are gone.

10. Super montes tollam (vel assumam) fletum et lamentationem, et super pascua (vel, loca amoena; alii vertunt, tuguria) deserti planctum; quia vastata sunt (alii vertunt, incensa;) ita non sit vir transiens, et non audiunt vocem pecudum; ab ave coelorum (hoc est, ab avibus) usque ad bestiam migrarunt, abierunt.


The Prophet had exhorted others to lament and to bewail. He now comes forth as though none had ears to attend to his admonition. As then he himself undertakes to mourn and to lament, he no doubt indirectly condemns the insensibility of the whole people. He saw by the spirit of prophecy, that all the rest thought what he said incredible and therefore fabulous. For though the kingdom of Judah was at that time much wasted, and the kingdom of Israel wholly fallen, they yet continued secure and heedless when they ought to have expected God's vengeance every day, and even every hour. Since then there was such insensibility in the people, the Prophet here prepares himself for lamentation and mourning.

I will take up, he says, mourning and lamentation for the mountains. The words may be explained, "I will take up mourning, which shall ascend as far as the mountains;" but the cause of mourning seems rather to be intended; for it immediately follows, and weeping for the pastures of the desert. Had not this clause been added, the former meaning might be taken, that is, that mourning would be so loud as to penetrate into the mountains or ascend into the highest parts. But as Jeremiah connects the two clauses, for the mountains, and for the pastures of the desert, the other meaning is much more appropriate, -- that the confidence of the people was very absurd, as they thougilt themselves beyond danger, dwelling as they did on the plains; for the enemies, he says, shall leave nothing untouched; they shall come to the mountains and to the pastures of the desert. It hence follows, that they were foolish who promised themselves quietness on the plains, where the enemy could easily come.

We now then understand the Prophet's meaning: he sets here his own fear and solicitude in contrast with the stupor of the whole people. I will raise, he says, weeping and lamentation for the mountains: but others remained secure and thoughtless in their pleasures. He then shews, that while they were blind, his eyes were open, and he saw the coming ruin which was now at hand. And he sets the mountains and pastures of the desert in opposition to the level country. For when a country is laid waste, we know that still a retreat is sought on mountains; for enemies dread ambushes there, and access is not easy where the roads are narrow. Then the Prophet says, that even the mountains would not be beyond the reach of danger, for the enemies would march there: he says the same of the pastures of the desert. We hence learn how absurd was their confidence who thought themselves safe because they inhabited the plain country, which was the most accessible.

As to the word twan naut, it comes from hwn hue, which means to dwell.1 He then takes twan haut, as signifying pleasant places, or pastures. Some render it sheds or cottages. David uses the same word in Psalm 23:2, in speaking of God's favor to him, who was pleased to become his shepherd:

"He makes me to lie down," he says, "in pleasant places."

But the Prophet no doubt means pastures here. And he calls them the pastures of the desert. The word rbdm midbar, we know, is taken to designate not only waste and sterile places, but also a mountainous country. Though then the richest pastures were on mountains, yet the Jews were wont to call them deserts: there is therefore nothing absurd in saying, the pleasant places or pastures of the desert. But we must bear in mind the contrast, of which I have reminded you: for he intended to condemn the foolish confidence of the people, who thought that they were dwelling in safety, when yet they were exposed to enemies, and had no means to repel or retard their progress.

Because they are laid waste, He says. This word may be taken in another sense, "burnt up;" but it is not suitable here. He says then that these places are laid waste, so that no one passed through. He means that mountains would not only be without inhabitants, but would be so deserted and solitary that there would be none passing over them. There would then be none to frequent them. It hence follows, that there would be no inhabitants, He then adds, that no voice of cattle was heard; as though he had said, that their enemies would take away as their spoil whatever should be found there: for the wealth of mountains consists in cattle; for there is neither sowing nor reaping there; but inhabitants of mountains get their living and whatever is necessary to support life, from flesh and skin and milk and cheese. When therefore the Prophet declares that there would be no voice of cattle, it is the same as though he had said, that the mountains would become altogether uninhabited, for their enemies would take away all the cattle found there.

He then adds, From the bird of the heavens to the earthly beast they shall migrate and depart.2 Here he seems again indirectly to reprove the insensibility of the people, as though he had said, that the birds would feel it to be the judgment of God, while yet men were wholly insensible; and that there would be a similar feeling in brute animals; as though he had said, that there would be more understanding in birds and animals than in the Jews, who had not only been created in the image of God, but had also been enlightened as to the truth of salvation; for shine among them did the truth of God in the law. Hence the Prophet shews that this stupidity was most shameful; for they were as stupid as if they had no thought and no understanding, while yet birds acknowledged the vengeance of God, and brute animals were terrified by it. We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet. It follows --

1 It is not from this root, but from hwa, to desire, in Niphal, hwan to be desirable. The noun means desirable or pleasant places or spots. See Psalm 23:2; Jeremiah 25:37; Joel 1:19. -- Ed.

2 The whole verse is as follows, --

10. For the mountains will I raise weeping and wailing, And for the pleasant places of the desert, a lamentation; For they are desolate, without any one passing through, And they hear not the voice of cattle; From the bird of heaven even to the beast, They have migrated, they have gone away.

The "pleasant places" were "desolate;" and "in the mountains" no "voice of cattle" was heard. No one "passing through" explains the desolation. The word is improperly rendered, "burnt up," in our version and by Blayney. It was used before in the sense of desolation, Jeremiah 4:7; and it ought to be so rendered in Jeremiah 2:15. In the last line, the migration refers to birds, and the going away to the beasts. In none of the ancient versions is this distinction intimated. -- Ed.